Like many similar magazines, it contained sections of news, game reviews, previews, tips, help guides, columnist writings, readers' letters, and cover-mounted disks of game demos.
The magazine was sometimes criticised for including "filler" content such as articles on Arnold Schwarzenegger with the justification that an upcoming film had a computer game tie-in. Readers also initially had trouble buying the magazine due to the name; The One lead to confusion among newsagents over exactly which magazine they meant.
In 1988 the 16-bit computer scene was beginning to emerge. With Commodore's Amiga and Atari's ST starting to gain more and more coverage in the multi format titles, EMAP decided it was time for a dedicated magazine aimed at the user of these 16-bit computers. The One for 16-Bit Games was launched and covered the Atari ST, Amiga, and PC games market. Produced by editor Gary Penn and a small team of contributors, the magazine went on to gain a circulation figures of over 40,000 readers. The industry voted The One for 16-Bit Games "Magazine of the Year" in February 1990. In June 1990, the magazine was extensively redesigned. Some regular features were dropped, the layout was changed, and the logo changed slightly to more emphasize ONE.
The ST and Amiga had reached a larger market by 1991 and there were dozens of single format magazines catering to these users. Because of this EMAP, along with recently appointed editor Ciarán Brennan, made the decision to split the magazine into The One for Amiga Games and The One for ST Games. PC games coverage was transferred to the recently launched PC Leisure.
1991 was the start of the high-water mark of 16-bit gaming. The 8-bit computers were fading away and gamers were moving over to the faster and more powerful 16-bit formats. Because many features fell into the general computing category, content remained similar between the two magazines. Because both magazines were produced by the same production team, the magazines resembled one another. However a few months later both titles would move in their own directions, catering for platform specific games.
In 1992 EMAP was reorganizing their games magazines. Mean Machines was split into two, The One for ST Games was incorporated into Europress's ST Action, and ACE magazine closed. ACE magazine closing meant that there was a well-respected team available. To give the magazine a new direction and look, the original staff were moved and the ACE writers took their place. The change of The One was evident with magazines' relaunch. The new editor Jim Douglas and his team produced the new magazine, with its shortened logo THE ONE, with the subtitle 'Incorporating all the best of ACE'. As the subtitle suggested, the magazine layout and content was essentially The One with some of the content of ACE, together producing an entirely new magazine.